Putin vows revenge as Moscow reels from huge terror attack

The Russian leader’s claims that Ukraine was linked to the attack – already claimed by a branch of Isis – have been branded ‘absurd’

Holly Evans
Saturday 23 March 2024 18:33 GMT
At least 133 people have been killed in a terror attack in Moscow
At least 133 people have been killed in a terror attack in Moscow (AP)

Vladimir Putin has vowed revenge after Moscow was hit by a devastating terror attack, promising that anyone involved in the assault will be “justly and inevitably punished”.

However, his claims that the terrorists, who opened fire at a concert hall and killed at least 133 people, had been heading towards Ukraine have been dismissed as “absurd”.

The extremist group Isis have claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred on Friday evening at Crocus City Hall when a group of gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons.

It comes as:

  • The death toll has risen to at least 133 people, with more than 140 injured. A large fire also engulfed the roof of the complex after a “grenade or an incendiary bomb” was thrown
  • Russian authorities said 11 people have been arrested, including all four suspects directly involved in the attack
  • Islamic State released an image of the alleged attackers standing beneath a flag, shortly after claiming responsibility
  • The US says Isis’s claim is credible after Washington’s embassy warned Americans on 7 March that extremists had imminent plans for an attack in Moscow

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Ukrainian officials have emphatically denied any involvement in the incident after the Russian leader and the FSB security service claimed the gunmen had contacts there.

Rescuers moving the rubble after the roof of Crocus City Hall burnt down (RUSSIAN EMERGENCY MINISTRY/AFP v)

Andriy Yusov, of the Ukrainian defence ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, said: “Ukraine was of course not involved in this terror attack. Ukraine is defending its sovereignty from Russian invaders, liberating its own territory and is fighting with the occupiers’ army and military targets, not civilians.”

He added that claims the terrorists were travelling to Ukraine, which has been at war with Putin’s Russia since 2022, “have nothing in common with reality”.

In his first public statement since Friday’s attack, Putin said: “All four perpetrators were found and detained. They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, previously, a window had been prepared for them to cross the border.”

Describing it as a “barbaric terrorist attack”, he added that additional security measures have been imposed throughout the country and announced a national day of mourning on Sunday.

Gunmen shown moving through the foyer of the concert hall (UGC/AFP via Getty)

Meanwhile, an offshoot of Isis claimed responsibility through the militant group’s Amaq News Agency. “The attack comes within the context of a raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam,” Amaq posted on encrypted social media site Telegram.

Established in Afghanistan, Islamic State Khorasan (Isis-K) emerged 2015 and quickly developed a reputation for extreme brutality and terror tactics.

The US embassy on 7 March repeatedly urged all American citizens to leave Russia immediately, giving no further details about the nature of the threat, but said people should avoid concerts and crowds and be aware of their surroundings.

“The embassy is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and US citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours,” the embassy said on its website at that time.

A massive blaze over the venue after an incendiary device was thrown (AP)

Friday evening’s attack unfolded as hundreds of concertgoers had gathered at the venue in northwestern suburb, awaiting a performance from progressive rock band Picnic.

At around 7.40pm, a white Renault car pulled up outside the 6,200-capacity concert hall with four gunmen entering the foyer and opening fire.

Harrowing video footage shows the gunmen, dressed in military clothing, shooting at point-blank range and targeting groups of people who were attempting to flee.

Bodies can be seen strewn across the floor with panic and chaos erupting as terrified members of the public scrambled to safety, smashing through reinforced windows and locked doors in a bid to escape.

“Some thought it was a kind of special effect of some sort,” one witness, Anastasia Rodionova, said. “Then I saw with my own eyes how people were dropping and the automatic gunfire began.”

“Your instinct for self-preservation kicks in, your eyes widen, [and you think] ‘Where can I run?’ Then someone shouted to us: ‘Get up – don’t lie down or they will shoot us all right now’.”

A Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground after the attack (AP)

An incendiary device was used to set fire to the building, with explosions heard in the background of several witness videos. Flames soon engulfed the building with hundreds of firefighters tackling the blaze, which caused the roof of the venue to eventually collapse.

The Baza Telegram channel, which is known for its close contacts with Russian special services, said 14 bodies were found on evacuation staircases, and 28 bodies had been found in one of the toilets.

They included mothers and children, while a further 100 people were successfully evacuated after taking shelter in the basement.

According to Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein, the attackers were spotted by police in a Renault vehicle in the Bryansk region and were arrested after a short pursuit.

The attack came just days after Putin cemented his grip on power in a highly orchestrated electoral landslide, which will see him continue in his role as President for the next six years.

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